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Bucket29

Will it be ok if I miss the inside passage on Alaska cruise?

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I am thinking about booking a 5 night Alaska Getaway on Royal Caribbean the end of May 2020.  The cruise begins and ends in Vancouver, has 2 days of cruising and visits Icy Strait Point and Sitka.  Royal has advised me this is a new cruise itinerary for them and they have not yet decided if the days of cruising will be the inside passage or not- I assume then Pacific and Gulf of Alaska?

I have never been to Alaska and can't determine if I would be disappointed if we don't travel the inside passage.  Does anyone know if we go an alternative route if we will still see glaciers and other exciting things- or would it just be water? Will the seas be extremely rough?  A 5 day cruise works better with my work schedule over a 7 day but I don't want to end up regretting it.  Thanks for any insight.

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While the “Inside Passage” sounds dramatic, the fact is that when you are underway you are rarely, if ever, close enough to land, whichever route the ship takes, to see much more than a gray hump on the horizon.  My real concern is that any itinerary of less than a week is far too short - your first and last days rarely count, so you barely get used to being on board before you are packing to go ashore.

 

Sitka is a good port - lovely Russian Orthodox Church - I don’t know Icy Strait Point - but I doubt you will see glaciers on that itinerary.

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1 hour ago, Bucket29 said:

I am thinking about booking a 5 night Alaska Getaway on Royal Caribbean the end of May 2020.  The cruise begins and ends in Vancouver, has 2 days of cruising and visits Icy Strait Point and Sitka.  Royal has advised me this is a new cruise itinerary for them and they have not yet decided if the days of cruising will be the inside passage or not- I assume then Pacific and Gulf of Alaska?

I have never been to Alaska and can't determine if I would be disappointed if we don't travel the inside passage.  Does anyone know if we go an alternative route if we will still see glaciers and other exciting things- or would it just be water? Will the seas be extremely rough?  A 5 day cruise works better with my work schedule over a 7 day but I don't want to end up regretting it.  Thanks for any insight.

Glaciers are only visible when closer to land, so an inside passage trip will be most likely to see them.  I'm not sure that traveling on the ocean side of the islands will have as much opportunity to see glaciers.

 

Also, cruising on the ocean side, yes, it's generally rougher than the inside passage.  But a lot of that depends on the weather.

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3 minutes ago, navybankerteacher said:

While the “Inside Passage” sounds dramatic, the fact is that when you are underway you are rarely, if ever, close enough to land, whichever route the ship takes, to see much more than a gray hump on the horizon.  

We saw lots of land much closer than that when on our inside passage cruise:

593009367_pinnaclegrill-zuiderdam100_0363.thumb.jpg.9755c6dee667f578aee77460bb986567.jpg

 

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Edited by Shmoo here

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2 minutes ago, Shmoo here said:

We saw lots of land much closer than that when on our inside passage cruise:

593009367_pinnaclegrill-zuiderdam100_0363.thumb.jpg.9755c6dee667f578aee77460bb986567.jpg

That picture looks pretty much like a gray hump.

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I took back-to-back cruises this summer from Vancouver to Alaska and back. While the ship sailed through the Inside Passage on the northbound cruise, I missed most of it since I went to dinner and then to the show and then to bed. It was much better on my southbound cruise, going through some interesting scenery near land on the last afternoon of the cruise. 

 

Our first two cruises to Alaska roundtrip ones from Seattle. The ships sail west of Vancouver Island instead of through the Inside Passage. But we did get close enough to land to enjoy on the other days--sailing into Juneau, into Tracy Arm, to Skagway, and Ketchikan.

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The "Inside Passage" actually extends from South of Vancouver most of the route up to Skagway.

 

Since you are departing Vancouver, I expect you will head up Georgia Strait, transit Seymour Narrows and Johnstone Strait. On clearing Queen Charlotte Strait (07:00 to 09:00), you will most likely head up open water to Sitka, then head in Icy Strait. To maintain that schedule you will probably retrace the same route.

 

Returning to Vancouver you will transit Johnstone Strait in daylight. 

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I suggest looking for a 7 night cruise starting and ending on a Friday, thus you only miss 6 working days. You will enjoy it much better with the added 2 night and more ports.

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Not taking the inside passage isn't a big deal.  But no, don't do a 5 night Alaskan Cruise that only goes to Ice Strait Point and Sika.  It would be better to pick a 7 night cruise that visits Glacier Bay National Park and/or at the very least Hubbard Glacier if you want to see glaciers.  In my opinion the cruise you are thinking of taking would be a huge mistake for someone visiting Alaska for the first time.  Some pictures from Glacier Bay NP.  My pictures don't do justice to what it looks like in person.

 

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So we took a 7 day cruise on Celebrity (part of the RCCL brands) this past August, and while we sailed through the Inside Passge, we missed almost all of it due to fog. You can see pictures of that in my trip report. As a note, the trip report is still in progress (I plan to finish writing it up within the next week or two) but I covered all of the cruise already. I don't feel like we missed out on anything that day personally, so I wouldn't hesitate to book a cruise that doesn't sail through there from a scenery perspective (rough vs calm waters may be a different story). 

 

However, the 5 day itinerary you are talking about does not visit any glaciers. The only opportunity you might have is by doing a flightseeing tour of Glacier Bay National Park from Icy Strait Point (see trip report here; comment #29). We did this excursion and loved it, so I do recommend that, but it was only offered through the cruise line, and I'm not sure if Royal Caribbean offers it too. They might since Celebrity is the same company, but I couldn't find it in RC's sample excursions offered at Icy Strait. 

 

If you want to guarantee that you will see glaciers, I think you should really look at longer cruises that specifically visit a glacier (will say glacier/cruising as a "port" on the itinerary even though the ship doesn't stop there). Going to Juneau also allows you to easily see Mendenhall Glacier. My advice is to either pick a cruise that stops in Juneau and/or specifically calls out going to Glacier Bay National Park, Hubbard Glacier, Tracy Arm, or Endicott Arm/Dawes Glacier.

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You are missing a lot by restricting  yourself to a 5 night cruise. You don't even have a glacier on you schedule. Maybe find a time when you can do a 7 night cruise.

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If vacation time is a factor (and assuming that you work M-F), I suggest a Sunday sailing so you can travel to your departure port on Saturday, then fly home the Sunday you return either very late morning, or early afternoon at the conclusion of your cruise.

 

It looks like your cruise is well priced, but flying into Vancouver BC can be expensive (and I'm sure you know that you will need a passport).

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Thank you all so much for the input- your experiences and suggestions really help in making the best decision I can.

I've decided to cancel the 5 day and am going to make the 7 day work.

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15 hours ago, Oakman58 said:

Not taking the inside passage isn't a big deal.  But no, don't do a 5 night Alaskan Cruise that only goes to Ice Strait Point and Sika.  It would be better to pick a 7 night cruise that visits Glacier Bay National Park and/or at the very least Hubbard Glacier if you want to see glaciers.  In my opinion the cruise you are thinking of taking would be a huge mistake for someone visiting Alaska for the first time.  Some pictures from Glacier Bay NP.  My pictures don't do justice to what it looks like in person.

 

image.thumb.png.9b8a8760c9a38fcc7f40acd3a6f010ba.png

 

image.thumb.png.20c2ce3dfc46058d17524272b4b90dc2.png

 

image.thumb.jpeg.be1184cfd8868942b82052e1b7c72bf0.jpeg

 

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IMG_2686.thumb.JPG.b2ee3fc0ca81ae1d0ca8e216e11bd060.JPG

 

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I have never been to Glacier Bay, Only huge Glacier I have seen is Hubbard......................But from pictures I have seen of Glacier Bay..............the differences are that Glacier Bay has much smaller glaciers but the back drops(mountains around the glacier are much larger then the mountains around Hubbard Glacier.................So is my assumption correct? If that is the only differences I can't figure out what so many people say Glacier Bay is better. then going to Hubbard Glacier.........to me it just sounds different?

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Hubbard Glacier is HUGE for sure you but only see one glacier.  Some cruise ships cruise College Fjord before Hubbard and view some other glaciers.  Also depending on the time of year and the ice conditions your cruise ship might not be able to get close to Hubbard.  Glacier Bay National Park consists of many glaciers and better scenery and takes most of the day to cruise.  Both are worth cruising and some ships visit both, but I think Glacier Bay is better for both the number of glaciers and the scenery.  This is just my opinion and I'm sure others would disagree with me.  My photos don't show the scale of the glaciers very well.  Here are three more photos taken in Glacier Bay.  The mountain goats were on Gloomy Knob as we cruised in Glacier Bay.

 

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Not the best picture but there were a lot of seals sleeping on the rocks.  This was early in the morning in Glacier Bay.

image.thumb.jpeg.c10c19af9784ed0d6e9b856f70e28e66.jpeg

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9 hours ago, Jimbo said:

I have never been to Glacier Bay, Only huge Glacier I have seen is Hubbard......................But from pictures I have seen of Glacier Bay..............the differences are that Glacier Bay has much smaller glaciers but the back drops(mountains around the glacier are much larger then the mountains around Hubbard Glacier.................So is my assumption correct? If that is the only differences I can't figure out what so many people say Glacier Bay is better. then going to Hubbard Glacier.........to me it just sounds different?

There are a variety of reasons.

 

The whole day in Glacier Bay is beautiful with the multiple glaciers and the different types of glaciers. My main thing is that Hubbard glacier can often be missed and some years is missed a lot. The first year I went, it was missed the entire year. Glacier Bay is always accessible and never missed.

 

I missed Hubbard glacier several times before finally getting there and I know I am not alone. I like when lines have 2 glacier days  scheduled so if you miss one, you have a chance at seeing the other.

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20 minutes ago, Coral said:

There are a variety of reasons.

 

The whole day in Glacier Bay is beautiful with the multiple glaciers and the different types of glaciers. My main thing is that Hubbard glacier can often be missed and some years is missed a lot. The first year I went, it was missed the entire year. Glacier Bay is always accessible and never missed.

 

I missed Hubbard glacier several times before finally getting there and I know I am not alone. I like when lines have 2 glacier days  scheduled so if you miss one, you have a chance at seeing the other.

 

I guess then we got lucky  then in mid May of 2017 we went right up in there with no problem. That was our first time to Alaska, next year July 2020 will be our 2nd trip there.

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10 hours ago, Jimbo said:

I have never been to Glacier Bay, Only huge Glacier I have seen is Hubbard......................But from pictures I have seen of Glacier Bay..............the differences are that Glacier Bay has much smaller glaciers but the back drops(mountains around the glacier are much larger then the mountains around Hubbard Glacier.................So is my assumption correct? If that is the only differences I can't figure out what so many people say Glacier Bay is better. then going to Hubbard Glacier.........to me it just sounds different?

 

I agree that Hubbard glacier can be much more impressive than the glaciers seen in Glacier Bay. I have a video I took some years back that has an embarrassing soundtrack of me just saying "Look at that!" over and over again, while watching huge calving. But I'll still vote for Glacier Bay any day, simply because of the variety of wildlife seen during the entire day. Otters, seals, bear, mountain goats, innumerable birds, whales at the mouth of the bay. I even saw two moose swimming right off the side of the ship this year. That can't be matched at Hubbard.

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1 hour ago, DougK said:

 

I agree that Hubbard glacier can be much more impressive than the glaciers seen in Glacier Bay. I have a video I took some years back that has an embarrassing soundtrack of me just saying "Look at that!" over and over again, while watching huge calving. But I'll still vote for Glacier Bay any day, simply because of the variety of wildlife seen during the entire day. Otters, seals, bear, mountain goats, innumerable birds, whales at the mouth of the bay. I even saw two moose swimming right off the side of the ship this year. That can't be matched at Hubbard.

Yea - Hubbard is just the one large glacier. Glacier Bay is a gorgeous day all day - with beautiful scenery, several glaciers plus a ton of wild life. I have never seen moose swimming there - you were very lucky!

 

I like Princess where you can have both on the schedule.

Edited by Coral

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2 hours ago, Coral said:

I have never seen moose swimming there - you were very lucky!

 

Yes, I know I was very lucky. It was the oddest thing to see, and took me a while to figure out. I would say that I just have an active imagination but the cruise director mentioned it later in the day and asked who had seen them. Very few other passengers had, possibly because it happened fairly early in the morning. The cruise director had never heard of such a thing before, but she asked the ranger on board, and was told that it does happen occasionally. It was just my lucky day. But other wildlife is much more common, and always a treat as well.

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I wouldn't book an Alaskan cruise that didn't include the Inside Passage.
Trouble is, it may well be transited, at least in part, in darkness.
Unsociable bedtime hours may be necessary.

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I’m looking at booking this same cruise with friends who have never cruised before. We wanted a shorter cruise for their first time and this one fit both of our schedules. My husband and I have done the inside passage with Glacier Bay on Princess. We really don’t want to do the same ports again and virtually every 7 day cruise goes to the same ports. Icy Strait and Sitka were new for us. I’m thinking if our friends love cruising they can go back and do an inside passage trip and have new ports. My concern is that this 5 day one time only cruise will not offer everything the weekly sailings offer. We’ve never cruised Royal before. Being the “organizer” makes me nervous! Will we be making a mistake?? Help!!

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I sure wanted to see the Inside Passage but the part we transited southbound in late May was during dark hours which astounded me.

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